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NAPOLEONIC WARS > 3. HF - MR. MIDSHIPMAN HORNBLOWER - CHAPTER III (72- 94) (01/31/11 - 02/06/11) ~ No spoilers, please

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Hello Everyone,

Welcome to the historical fiction discussion of Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C.S. Forester.

This is the reading assignment for week three - (January 31, 2011 to February 6, 2011)

Week Three: Jan 31 - Feb 6 -> Chapter III: Hornblower and the Penalty of Failure, pages 72 - 94 (23 pages)

This is the fifth historical fiction group selected book.

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers if you are catching up.

This book was kicked off on January 17th.

This discussion is being led by assisting moderator of historical fiction - Elizabeth S. We are glad to have her back for this selection.

We always enjoy the participation of all group members. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle.

This thread opens up either the weekend before or Monday, January 31st for discussion. This is a non spoiler thread.




Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C.S. Forester C.S. Forester C.S. Forester

message 2: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Chapter 3, Hornblower and the Penalty of Failure, begins right where the previous chapter leaves off. Hornblower, his 4 British sailors, and the captured French crew are aboard the small boat after the sinking of the Marie Galante. The French captain tries to persuade Hornblower to sail to France, but Hornblower insists on England. Hornblower finally pulls his pistols to quell the French. They see a ship, which unfortunately turns out to be the French privateer Pique. Now the tables are turned and Hornblower is the prisoner.

Aboard the Pique, Hornblower has more time to re-examine his failure with the Marie Galante. Hornblower's eighteenth birthday comes and goes. Days later, a ship is sited and identified as the Indefatigable. Captain Neuville boasts that the Pique, when before the wind, can outrun any British ship. And then he proves his point. As the Indefatigable falls hopelessly behind, Hornblower manages to set fire to his cabin. The fire takes hold, and finally the Pique must come up into the wind and be caught by the Indefatigable. Hornblower reports to Pellew about both the Marie Galante and his time as a prisoner on the Pique. However, to punish himself for his failure with the Marie Galante, Hornblower does not take credit for the Pique fire.

message 3: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments And we are off with another week of adventure on the high seas! Sorry, couldn't resist.

I think the most interesting thing to discuss in this chapter is basically the end. Do you think Hornblower's self-punishment was appropriate? Does the fire leading to the capture of the Pique balance fairly with the loss of the Marie Galante?

Personally, I'm not sure. In many ways this is one of those things where part of me admires Hornblower for taking the "high road" per se, but at the same time it bothers me that Hornblower doesn't get any accolades for even thinking to set the fire. I guess it comes down to whether or not the loss of the Marie Galante was as terrible as Hornblower felt, or as no-big-deal as Pellew thought. It says a lot on page 93: "As Hornblower had expected -- perhaps as he had even feared -- Pellew had passed lightly over the loss of the brig." Hornblower is a hard self-judge.

message 4: by Veronika (new)

Veronika  Sprague (veronikasprague) I'm new here, and I was thrilled to see that you all are reading this; I started it myself a few months ago!

I loved this chapter because Hornblower's character really starts to come out. He is, as you said, Elizabeth, a hard self-judge, and while that's sad in many ways because he never gives himself deserved credit, it's also admirable because he's so humble about his contributions to the Navy.

I think Hornblower was too hard on himself, as always, but I think this is what makes him so realistic and likeable at the same time. And also why Pellew likes him (though Hornblower doesn't perceive that).

message 5: by Elizabeth S (last edited Jan 31, 2011 01:40PM) (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments I like your thoughts, inkworknow. Good observation about Pellew liking Hornblower, but Hornblower not realizing it.

I wonder if Pellew had any suspicion about the fire. We aren't really given any hint that direction, so it is pure speculation. But I can see Pellew thinking that Hornblower had something to do with the fire, but that Hornblower didn't want to take credit for fear of not being believed. Because, really, how many people would be crazy enough to set fire to the wooden ship he is on.

message 6: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) I agree that Hornblower was to hard on himself.True A more salted hand would have recognized the risks inherent in taking control of a hulled ship, but I doubt there would be many how would perceive rice as such a risky cargo If he wants to climb the ranks he needs to take every opportunity that comes his way. Maybe this attitude will develop as he matures. Even though he was plunged into this fantastic adventure with many a twist, we still see his youthful self-doubt plaguing him.

message 7: by Veronika (new)

Veronika  Sprague (veronikasprague) Michael, that's one of things I really like about this character (I've read this book before, and it's even better the second time around): his development. I can see a lot of my own young friends developing and maturing just like Hornblower. Forester does an amazing job of describing how Hornblower thinks and his whys and wherefores of his actions, just like an adolescent. I love how well readers can get into his head. :)

C.S. Forester C.S. Forester

message 8: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) Remind me of my impetuous youth :)

message 9: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Hornblower though well intentioned is like one of those monks in Monty Python flogging himself. There were so many instances in the book so far where he really is ill prepared to take command. A leader who is a like a boat without a rudder.

I wonder what Forester might have been saying about folks in command like Hornblower leaving the real work to be done by others in many instances. His name is somewhat of a misnomer; when he fails to blow his own horn.

Overall, his character is admirable even though he seems to be bluffing his way through at the beginning with the sheer force of his determination. Of course, like inkworknow states Hornblower really is just developing and maturing so we have to give him some slack.

message 10: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Interesting perspective, Bentley. Comparing Hornblower to the Monty Python monks really made me laugh.

We all know that Hornblower eventually moves up in the navy and becomes good. (After all, there can't be 11 books about him bumbling about as an uncertain midshipman.) So this book really is a lot about his maturation. Everyone makes mistakes. The question is, can we learn from them? How long will it take for Hornblower to improve, especially in his own eyes?

message 11: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments Hornblower really drives himself to do well, to the point of punishing himself for perceived failure. In the book so far, it says his motivation is primarily duty. What other motivations do you see him having? Is duty the primary motivation?

message 12: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 01, 2011 06:13AM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
I think that Hornblower is filled with self doubt, does not see himself as the worthwhile young man he really is. I think he is shy, reserved, conscientious , lacks confidence, a bit pedantic, clever, and I think to answer your specific question not quite sure himself what his motivations are or what drives him. He is trying to prove something to himself; maybe his father who we know very little about and just does not want to embarrass himself further. I think he is an ambitious boy too; but he has a lot of internal conflict going on inside of himself right now.

message 13: by Veronika (new)

Veronika  Sprague (veronikasprague) Ditto everything Bentley says. :) Yes, I think he is driven by a severe loyalty to duty...but because of his other inner turmoil, he confuses himself and thinks he's actually doing it for some personal advantage. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but apparently he does, so this angers him and makes him chide himself.

message 14: by Veronika (new)

Veronika  Sprague (veronikasprague) And, keep in mind, too...Hornblower is only 17.

Still, I wish I was that competent and dutiful at that age...

message 15: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments What was your favorite part in this chapter?

I enjoyed the exchanges with Captain Neuville. First there is the captain's mocking politeness: "Those pistols in your belt must discommode you more than a little. Permit me to relieve you of their weight." (See pages 80-81.) We can see how fake the politeness is when we read that after those initial exchanges, Hornblower was basically ignored. Ignored until Neuville can use information about the Indefatigable, which Hornblower refuses to give. Neuville still manages to stay superior by boasting of his ship's speed, and proving it.

So I love it all the more when Hornblower is innocently standing by while the fire is discovered and fought. Neuville can guess who started the fire, "Neuville took a stride towards Hornblower, his face working with rage." (See pages 90-91.) And I inwardly danced with glee when I read, "For the first time in his life Hornblower saw a man literally tearing his hair." I love the understatement of the sentence too. Nicely written, Forester.

message 16: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments inkworknow wrote: "And, keep in mind, too...Hornblower is only 17.

Still, I wish I was that competent and dutiful at that age..."

I'd settle for just being competent now! Still working on it. :)

message 17: by Veronika (new)

Veronika  Sprague (veronikasprague) Yeah, Elizabeth, that quote about tearing his hair had me rolling. I think that's what I liked too: Hornblower's "innocence" while the fire's going on. I also really appreciated his sheer determination to get out. A lot of guys would have just accepted defeat and called it quits. Not Horatio. :)

message 18: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Our hero (smile).

message 19: by Vincent (new)

Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1246 comments I like all your comments - mine follow here mostly similar

It seems Mr. Hornblower is growing up, may be symbolized by his birthday becoming 18 during this chapter.

He has to deal with the failure of losing the ship – to stand up to an experienced French Captain in the boat, then to cope with real decisions, to be determined to go to England rather than take the safer way to Bordeaux.

I don’t know the protocol of the period but noticed that Captain Neuville did not get a pledge from Hornblower to behave. So I assume his setting the fire was OK… maybe? Was it normal to get the pledge not to rebel from a “free prisoner” on the ship? It was not an act that Hornblower felt was worthy to mention to Captain Pellew of Indefatigable.

message 20: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (loboz) I think one thing we need to keep in mind is that a 17 year old in the age the book is set, is vastly different then that of our age. The expectations placed on them by society and the responsibility's they were expected to take on are what we today expect from a much older age.

message 21: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Very true Michael.

message 22: by Veronika (new)

Veronika  Sprague (veronikasprague) Exactly what Michael said.

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